Big doin’s for Daisy Mae

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Although we’ve waited for little ones for almost two years, the last two days have brought a flurry of preparation for our kids’ first litter of puppies.

I’m please to announce that…they have arrived!

Daisy Mae went into labor and delivered her first baby girl at about 3:00 this morning.  She then delivered four more little girls and a baby boy over the course of the next two hours.  Daisy has stayed calm and the pups are heartily nursing.  So far, so good.

Although Daisy did the vast majority of the work (and did it quite well, I might add), my daughter, Gracie, made an excellent assistant.  Rachel and Isaac each hung out and helped for an hour or so and then headed back to bed to get their rest.  Their energy will be greatly appreciated later today, I’m sure.

It has been exciting to see this answer to my kids’ prayers.  Not only do they love Daisy as part of our household, they have made no small investment, in both time and money, in this venture.  I am grateful to see them one step closer to realizing one of their goals.

 

 

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Bowing Down

I had a potty-training toddler in my home this week.  Like most two-year-old boys, this one is not nearly as eager for mastering this milestone as the adults in his life, but he’s giving some half-hearted effort from time to time.  To increase his level of commitment, his momma is rewarding him with an M&M every time the deed is adequately done.  When I was handed the small container of M&Ms with instructions, I absent-mindedly set them in my bay window and went on about my business.

An hour or so later, Little Guy’s six-year-old sister came in and just stood near me while I worked in the kitchen.  After a few seconds, she inquired, “Why is he bowing down to M&Ms?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked at her.  “What?” I asked.

She jerked her head toward the bay window and repeated her question: “Why is he bowing down to M&Ms?”

I followed her gaze and took in the scene.  From her perspective, the shepherd in my African nativity display did, indeed, look as though he was paying homage to the tiny container of M&Ms!  I laughed and laughed!  I then explained that the candies were just randomly set on the ledge and lifted her and her little sister up to see the true recipient of the shepherd’s worship: Sweet Baby Jesus.

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I continued my work in the kitchen with a smile on my face, appreciating the good laugh this precious little girl had given me.  Life is almost always more interesting when occasionally seen through the eyes of a child!  What was so obvious to me was completely missed by my young friend.  I was tall enough to see the whole picture while she and her sister were not.

I wonder how many times I have looked like I was the one bowing down to something as ridiculous as M&Ms.  How many times have I been mindlessly going through life, paying little attention to the decisions I made, giving the very appearance of bowing down to that which is worthless?  From the perspective of the ones around me, where does my heart lie?

Lord, help me to speak, to act, to live as though You are the sole object of my worship.

 

 

Steak & Salmon

Steak and salmon.

That’s what my soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old son wants for his birthday dinner.   Usually, I would have balked at such an expensive meal, but we actually have both of those items in our freezer right now.  He just happened to ask soon after having our first beef butchered and me finding a great price on some frozen salmon fillets.

Apparently, the days of requests for tacos or twice-baked potatoes and smoked sausage are long gone.  My kids have broadened their culinary horizons significantly.

It’s actually  kind of my fault.  I enjoy a variety of food, some of which doesn’t exactly make for a low-cost meal.  I have always encouraged the kids to try all kinds of stuff–especially regional favorites of various locations.  When in Kansas City, try the barbecue.  When on the coast, enjoy whatever fish are in-season.  When in South Dakota, order the elk or bison burgers.  That’s just the way I was raised to eat.

Thankfully.

We are so fortunate to have so many varieties of food at our fingertips–and at relatively low prices.  We don’t have to go to California to enjoy pomegranates or travel to Mexico for avocados or fly to Alaska for king salmon.  We can live anywhere in the U.S. and sample the flavors of almost every continent.  That’s pretty amazing.

So.  Steak and salmon are officially on the menu for my son’s birthday supper.  He tried to add shrimp, but I told him not a chance.   My freezer is not that well-stocked!

 

Free Labor

Not long ago, I was met with an interesting proposal.  A friend asked me if she could send her teenaged son out to my house to work.  For free.

Apparently, this young man had gotten a little bit too used to Mom and Dad paying for the things he wanted to do.  A youth event at their church was advertised, and the teen assumed that his parents had the money and were more than happy to hand it over so that he could participate.  I’m not sure of the specifics, but I can probably surmise the particulars of the conversation.  It is all too familiar to those of us who have children.

These wise parents recognized a trait in their son that they were not willing to encourage, and they decided to do something about it.  Instead of shaking their heads and muttering something about “Kids these days!”, they decided to act under their own convictions.  They want their son to work for the privilege of attending this retreat.  These parents realize that his levels of gratitude and understanding will increase with his level of personal investment.  Smart!  Since these folks don’t have the same opportunities for physical labor at their place as we do at ours, my friend decided to ask for my help.  Would I please allow him the opportunity to work hard for 3 hours on our little farm in exchange for a sewing class for my daughters?  They will be the ones to actually pay him; I just need to provide him with an opportunity to earn it.

Ummm…yes!

I made the stipulations that he and my son could have time to just hang out and play afterwards, and I wanted to be sure that I got to feed him a good meal for his time.  I told my son, Isaac, that he could order up whatever he thought they’d like for supper.   He will be working alongside his friend, honing his skills as an instructor and encourager.  (Well, theoretically, anyway.)

I admit that I am a bit uncomfortable making out a To Do List for someone else’s child, but I confess that I am super impressed with these parents.  Counselor Dave says that entitlement is one of the biggest issues that keeps today’s young adults from living healthy, effective lives.  My friend and her husband are recognizing the issue early on and addressing it in a proactive, intentional way.  They are taking direct steps in protecting their kiddos from the selfish habit of expecting a free ride in this world.  How admirable!

I was telling another friend about this situation.  She is a young mom with three daughters and a son.  Her immediate response was, “Wow!  I’d like you to keep this young man in mind for me!  When my nine-year-old daughter is looking for a husband, this kid may be a good option.  His parents are raising him up right!”.

Parenting is tough.  Good parenting oftentimes makes waves with our kids and raises eyebrows among our peers.  There is no step-by-step manual for every situation that arises.  And, even more frustrating, what works with one kid will often not work for another.  Positive parenting is this remarkable balance of firmness and grace–always on the watch, continually challenging the norm, firmly established in love.

I’m thankful for other parents who make these tough decisions.  I’m thankful for the ones who are willing to make themselves vulnerable and to ask for help.  I’m thankful for the ones who listen without judgment and share from their experiences.  What is so difficult for us now may make things easier for someone else later.  We were never meant to live our lives on an island of our own making.

So, thank you, sweet friend, for trusting me to walk alongside you in your parenting journey.  Thank you for loving your son enough that you are willing to make him uncomfortable for his own good.  Thank you for the example you are setting for my own children.  And, most of all, thank you for making yourself vulnerable to me; I now know that you are a safe place for me during my own challenging seasons of motherhood.

3-Hour French Bread

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I don’t know where this recipe originated, but it was passed along to me by my friend, Tiffany.  My son and I were able to have some delightful first, second and third experiences with this tasty bread during a recent visit with Tif and her family.  Let’s just say that we enjoyed it…a lot.  So, we brought home the recipe.

Tiffany and I met in college some twenty years ago.  We have a lot of similar interests–baking, gardening, reading and loving on our families.  She and I do some of the same weird things–homeschool, drive really old vehicles whose “check engine” lights are almost always on and re-use storage bags and parchment paper.  We appreciate one another’s differences, too.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and we’re okay with that.  Really, Tif’s greatest flaw is that she thinks Double-Stuf Oreos are disgusting.  Obviously, she’s wrong…but I can overlook that.

One of the things that I love most about Tiffany is that I can count on her to tell me the truth in love.  For the better part of a year, I went through a rough patch of adulthood.  I’m not sure exactly what all was the problem, but I felt a desperation and an isolation that was mostly new to me.  I felt out of control and lost and so very, very lonely.  It was awful.  My perspective was so emotion-driven that it was skewed.  I knew that it was skewed, but I had a hard time keeping myself together.

My friend heard my heart.  She did not trivialize my pain.  She did not condescend to my choices.  She just repeatedly pointed me to Christ.  She reminded me that my standard can be found in Him and that He is a safe place for my aching heart.  She encouraged me to set aside time to just praise Him–to bask in His love and goodness.  I knew all of these things already, but my soul was struggling to act on these truths.  She was one of the friends whose loving counsel provided me with both motivation and accountability.  I needed both.

Friends, love one another.  Whether it’s an encouraging email, a listening ear or a warm loaf of bread, love the folks around you.  There’s no time like the present.

So, back to the bread…

This is super easy to make and yields consistent results.  And, any leftovers make killer French toast.

3-4 c. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. water

Mix 3 c. flour with remaining ingredients.  Knead, adding in approximately 1 c. more of flour.

Cover and let rise in oiled bowl for 1 1/2 hours.

Make two long loaves.  Let rise 1 hour on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

After rising time, make four evenly-placed horizontal slashes on top of loaves.  I’ve found that a serrated knife works well for this.

In preheated 450-degree oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature is between 190 and 210 degrees.  (To create a traditional French bread crust, preheat an oven-safe pan on the lowest rack.  After placing the unbaked bread in the oven, throw a 1/2-cup of water in the hot dish and quickly close the door.)

Brush with butter while still warm, if desired.  (And why wouldn’t you desire it?)

Turkey Trouble

Ahhh…a new day.  So far, so good.

Don’t get me wrong.  Yesterday was a good day, too.  It just did not go as planned.  Let me give you a re-cap.

My son and I had just come back from Kentucky, where we’d visited one of my dearest friends and her family.  We had a wonderful time catching up, and we got home Tuesday evening, thankful to be back with Dave and the girls.

I got up yesterday morning, took the puppy out and had my time with Jesus.  I made a list of things I needed to do to catch up from my time away, the first being a quick run to a bulk foods store to pick up a meat order a friend and I were splitting.  Easy enough.

Before I got out the door, I went to check on a young turkey which had apparently sustained an injury while I was gone.  Bad news.  Its leg was broken and it was not in good shape.  (For its own protection, it had been placed in our “clinic” for assessment and recovery.  When this happens, animals tend to thrive…or dive.  This one had clearly done the latter.)  Blah.  I really, really, really dislike dying things.  I don’t especially despise them once they’re fully dead, but animals that are in the process of dying are tough for me.  I now had one of those on my hands.

I made the poor guy as comfortable as possible, informed the kids and headed to pick up my bulk order in order to meet my time deadline.  I would take care of the turkey when I got home.

On the way home, I saw that it looked like we might get rain.  Hallelujah!  We had gotten so dry in the past couple of weeks that we really needed some water.  So thankful for what looked like an answer to prayer on the way.

I got home and began to clean and bag the meat for the freezer.  It was in a huge box, and I didn’t have enough space in the fridge to stash it while I dealt with the turkey, so I was trying to work as quickly as possible.  My son had put the turkey out of its misery, so I felt no major rush to get it dressed out.

Then I heard thunder.  Change of plans.

I passed off the meat preparation to my oldest daughter, whom had been patiently waiting for me to give her a test.  With a small sigh, she graciously took over.  I grabbed my knives and a hatchet and headed outside.

Let me just say that I don’t love butchering things.  I have done it, and I can do it, but I don’t love it.  I truly have to mind-over-matter my way through the processing, thanking God for this sacrifice of life and for the opportunity to grow and eat much of our own food.  I understand that all meat packaged and sold at grocery stores came from living, breathing creatures that had to go through the butchering process before winding up in sanitary-looking, plastic-wrapped packages in supermarket coolers.  I truly do get it.  I actually find great peace in the fact that our animals lived happy, healthy lives up until the point of processing.  But.  I still don’t love butchering things.  To complicate matters, though I had processed many chickens, I had never dressed out a turkey…and I had conveniently avoided dressing out anything for the better part of two years.

I confess that I had toyed with the idea of taking the carcass back into the woods and leaving it for the coyotes.  This would not only get me out of an undesirable task, but it would get me back to what I really needed to be doing–catching up from my trip.  Unfortunately for me, I had recently spent a few hours talking with and listening to the world-renowned Joel Salatin, Farmer Extraordinaire, and had committed to being more responsible with the resources God has given me.  Here I had a young turkey with healthy meat and bones (well, aside from that broken leg) and the knowledge and ability to turn him into food for me family.  It totally seemed like the responsible thing to do.

Bummer for me.

Interestingly, I had just had this conversation with my Kentucky friend:  I like having my hand held when I do something for the first time.  Unlike my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friend, I like to have someone right beside me to provide guidance, moral support and courage (should courage fail).  This is why I have asked another one of my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friends to help me butcher a full-grown tom turkey next week.  The bottom line is that I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to this things, and I greatly value the cheerleaders in my life.  Yesterday, however, I was on my own.

So, with tools and turkey in hand, I headed to the woodpile to get ‘er done.

That’s when it started to rain.

Thank You, Lord, for this rain.  (I said over and over and over in my head as it soaked me from head to toe.)

Longer story short, I guessed and fumbled and “oopsed” my way through preparing this young turkey to feed my family.  It wasn’t really pleasant, but it wasn’t really horrible, either.  And, to be honest, I’m pleased and somewhat proud of that 4.24-lb. young turkey resting in our basement fridge.

After the turkey tangent was resolved, I redirected my attention to the day’s activities and got almost everything done.  I even worked in a bit of an afternoon nap, thanks to my kids pitching in to help and being patient with their own to do lists.  The day didn’t look like I thought it would, and it was not as comfortable as I’d hoped, but I did what needed to be done.

The rain moved back in this morning, and (so far) all of the animals seem happy and healthy.  The kids have all taken their tests, and one has even finished her school for the week.  While catching up on laundry and housework, I may even be able to squeeze in a batch of noodles to go with that turkey.

 

September Babies

September isn’t usually a month in which we welcome babies to our little farm.  As a matter of fact, we are usually winding down our commitments this time of year.  2017 is proving to be a bit different in this regard.

A few weeks ago, Farmer Dave and I went to meet Rue, a young heifer who needed a new home.  Since Sir Loin was making his transition from our pasture to our freezer, Red Rose needed a new companion.  One early Saturday morning, I poured my coffee in a travel mug, joined Dave in the old truck and went to look at one of our options.

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We kind of went out on a limb with a local farmer (whom we had not previously known) and told him that we are relatively ignorant on what makes a good calf…and would trust him to be honest with us.  (Yeah, I know.)  He kind of looked at us for a moment and then proceeded to recommended a young heifer from his herd.  This man’s teenage son was listening to the entire exchange, and we took comfort in that the cow looked very healthy AND the son was in on the discussion.  Surely the man was modeling integrity to this boy and not teaching him to be a con artist, right?  So far, so good on Miss Rue.  She has a sweet disposition, and she and Rose are already sharing food and swatting at one another’s flies.

Last weekend, Dave and I planned a little getaway for the two of us that involved a few opportunities to hear Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farms, speak in the Indianapolis area.  I have appreciated much of Salatin’s platform for some time, and I was eager to get Dave’s take on his perspective.  Plus, we had been graciously included in an invitation for a farm-to-table dinner and roundtable discussion with Joel and other local growers and interested parties.  Little did I know that Dave and I would get to have dinner at the same table as special friends AND Joel Salatin!  During our meal, we enjoyed much laughter…and really good food!  (Thank you, Griggsby’s Station and Tyner Pond Farms!)

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, Dave was planning to use our weekend away as an opportunity to pick up another newbie for Country Haven.

Meet Liberty Belle.

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She is an 8-week-old goldendoodle puppy whom we hope to breed.  Over the past 15 months, Dave and the kids have co-invested in two females and a male in the hopes of generating income for school, farm and home expenses.  Miss Libby, as we call her, is adjusting very nicely to life at Country Haven.  We all love her.

One of the things I like least about life on our little farm is that things don’t always go the way we’d like for them to go.  We experienced this a couple of weeks ago with the loss of a couple of dozen broilers (meat chickens) ready for butchering.  It was a sad (and expensive) day, but we learned a valuable lesson in the process.  Since we had planned to tuck that meat away for the winter months, our freezer is a little light on chicken.  To fill in the gap a bit, Dave brought home 20 chicks last night.  They are a mix between amberlinks and buff orpingtons.  We will keep the hens to lay eggs and process the cockerels for our table.  Dave found them for a great price at a nearby farm store, so we felt good about the financial investment.

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There are always so many things to learn in this life, and I am thankful for the opportunities we have to learn them in a safe, peaceful environment.  Seasons come and go, but there are sorrows and gifts in every situation.